Peterborough Black Lives Matter protester: ‘Racism is the oldest pandemic’
Mr Singh who is widely known for his many fundraising efforts for charities and groups in the city was one of the speakers at this afternoon’s protest in Cathedral Square.
He said there was a large crowd but people were taking care to social distance and organisers issued regular reminders to those gathered.
“The lovely thing was that there were hundreds of people there,” he said. “A lot of people were wearing masks. People were distancing as best they could and organisers encouraged people to move around, stand apart and hammered distancing home the entire afternoon.”
Mr Singh spoke about his own experiences of racism.
He said: “I was there as somebody who has grown up in this city, as a long standing Peterborian who loves the city and someone who has experienced racism first hand.
“People have said ‘why protest in Peterborough about something that happened in Minnesota?’ my answer is that racism is the oldest pandemic in the world.
“People of colour have been hit by a double... whammy covid and prejudice.”
Mr Singh spoke about some of his experiences of racism. He told the gathering about his early school days when he was told his name ‘Deljit’ was too difficult and so was told to go by the name of ‘Paul’ by his school.
“They told my parents that I should use the name Paul,” said Del “That was subtle, but later I also experienced the unsubtle, the sledgehammer of racism when I grew older.”
Del spoke about an incident on his birthday in 1983 when he and his brother were attacked by a group of ‘skinheads’ near the Embankment in Peterborough.
“Police at that time came slowly,” said Del “The people who attacked us didn’t have to run away they walked slowly away.”
Del was angry at the slow response and got into an altercation with a police officer who attended about what had happened and was then himself arrested.
“His question to me was ‘what are you doing in this part of town?’. He was a young and naive officer, but I was arrested.
“The great irony is that a few weeks earlier I had been asked by the chief superintendent to address some new recruits about policing in a multi-cultural way. When I mentioned this and the chief superintendant’s name at the station I was very rapidly unarrested.
“I have a lot of respect for the police and now have I have family who work for Cambridgeshire Constabulary.”
Del told the gathering that in more recent times the Brexit debate had resulted in some experiencing racism.
He said he had been involved in an altercation in Peterborough when a group of youths shouted at him and he tried to engage them in conversation.
“They shouted something about getting their country back,” said Del “I explained to them that I was born here. They talked about generations but I said ‘how far do you want to go back?’ I told them you might be of Italian or German descent. They didn’t like it, one said ‘a dog born in a stable isn’t a horse’.
Eventually I walked away but my point is that racism does exist here.”
Del hopes the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests will bring change and better education on the issue.
He added: “My clarion call was for parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about this.
“Education is important... walk in our shoes for a minute. If this starts the conversation that is good. If even one person changes their behaviour it is worthwhile.
“I hope people get behind this movement. Learn and educate themselves about this issue and talk to others.”